Cooperation between South Korea and China conducive to fighting against epidemic’: South Korea’s new consul general in Wuhan

By Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/26 14:13:23

A community worker delivers food to a local resident at Tanhualin community in Wuchang District in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 9, 2020. (Xinhua/Li He)

A newly-appointed South Korean diplomat in Wuhan said that it is natural to travel to Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak to assume the post as the country's new consul general in the Chinese city in a bid to perform the mission of maintaining friendly ties between the two countries and South Korean citizens' health and safety.

"I'm not a hero going against the tides. I'm just doing my job," Kang Seung-seok, South Korea's consul general in Wuhan, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

While several countries have withdrawn their diplomats from  Hubei due to the epidemic, Kang arrived in Wuhan on February 20 by a temporary cargo aircraft. His move has not only won praises from the spokesperson of China's Foreign Ministry, but also touched the heart of many Chinese citizens.

Kang said he assumed office at this critical time to "work with all people here to face the current difficulties and cooperate with other people to make contributions to win the battle against the epidemic."

"I was a little worried before I took office. But after coming here and seeing how my colleagues are working, I'm very relieved," he said. 

Four diplomats stay on at the South Korean Consulate General in Wuhan during the coronavirus outbreak, Kang said. They insist on going to work every day, helping with the evacuation of South Koreans from Wuhan and protecting those who are still stranded there. 

The staff are also responsible for distributing supplies provided by the South Korean government to prevent and control the epidemic, leaving some "exhausted" due to the heavy workload.

In less than a week since he assumed office, Kang has met local officials as well as South Korean doctors responsible for distributing emergency relief supplies and taking care of Korean citizens in Wuhan. 

"Protecting South Korean citizens and providing more emergency supplies to people in Wuhan and other regions in Hubei will be my priorities,"he said. The Chinese government updated his consulate with coronavirus-related information every day, which includes the lockdown measures implemented in major cities in Hubei and "closed-off management" in major communities where residents have to get registered before being allowed in or out, said the diplomat. 

"I think these are very effective measures," he said.

While the lockdown has indeed caused some difficulties in work and daily life, Kang said most of them are tolerable and can be overcome. 

In recent days, the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea worsened. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday that the situation was "very grave," Reuters reported. 

South Korea reported 115 more cases of the new virus, raising its total to 1,261 as of the press time on Wednesday.

Kang told the Global Times that he hopes South Korea and China can have more cooperation in combating the epidemic, especially in the sharing of information and experiences. 

China has made some progress in finding ways to treat the coronavirus. South Korea also accumulated a great deal of useful experience in combating SARS in 2003. "Cooperation is conducive to fighting the epidemic for the two countries," he said. 

While some people are now concerned that the epidemic will hurt Hubei and dampen investor confidence, Kang told the Global Times that he still holds a positive attitude toward Hubei's economic development.

"I think Hubei is still a very attractive investment destination. In the future, there is great potential for cooperation between South Korea and Hubei Province in fields including IT, artificial intelligence, smart cities and bio-medicine," he said.

Newspaper headline: New SK diplomat in Wuhan wins respect

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